It had been a really entertaining evening. And as it is often the case these days -- at least in my life -- I was probably the oldest person in that lively round of people. Not that it was totally obvious. As we all know there are an incredibly large number of fabulous knockouts over 50 and 60 that could give some pretty youngsters a run for their money. Since the evening was long and I was in a chatty mood, I managed to casually drop references to Fury (not the re-runs), the Hula Hoop craze, watching the first man on the moon while puffing a joint, and to top it off -- a real age-revealer -- bragged about Jane Fonda and me, the young reporter, being on the set of Barbarella in Italy. Quite a few surprised looks followed and I saw their brains practically spinning trying to do the math. What? How old can she be? A flabbergasted young man -- charmers that they are -- exclaimed, "Oh, c'mon, you must have been in diapers!" Not a knee-slapper but a cute try. And what a great temptation for me to chop off a decade -- and to shut up in the future. But I'm still resisting both. "Are you crazy!" shrieks my friend Anna who forbade me to ever mention again our childhood memories publicly in her presence. Something like boys who stole coal from railway wagons (I grew up in postwar Germany), scratchy knitted underpants, the smelly fake-honey made of turnips, or the returning prisoners of war with one leg -- because it is all really uncool. And a dead giveaway of our biblical age.
The fact is sometimes when you rave about milestone events in your private live or share indelible collective memories you become aware of who and what you have already seen and heard, have worn, loved or hated in so many years. And yes, one could be cagey and coquette, lie a little, leave out this and that, once you hit 50, and thus become a mysterious ageless creature not an identifiable witness of certain times. But wouldn't I be a traitor of my own legend? Besides, there lurks another danger with possibly embarrassing effects. You have to become real good at math -- and quick too. Coordinating stories where your age and the events you mention match perfectly takes concentration or else you get caught in a net of contradictions. Unedited slips of the tongue or talking a blue streak become a slippery slope when you mess up the dates. On one hand you were a teenager when Elvis was young and rebellious, on the other hand you claim you don't remember the day Kennedy was shot because you say with a look of regret, "I wasn't even born then." Your daughter just finished her Ph.D., you announce proudly; oops, that would make you a mother at 12 if you also insist you wore braces when disco ruled.
A lot of women find it risky to tell the truth about their age. I say: How lucky, what richness! It's like having a private treasure-trove that must be shared with the young and the innocent!
It is so much more fun to be truthful and dazzle the people around you with your stories, not lies. You don't want to be an impostor, a fake and a fraud in your own life where fear of discovery and censorship rule.
Can you believe I saw Jimi Hendrix play twice in my hometown of Hamburg and the Beatles on their last concert? And those historical life-altering events -- which do make me indeed a card-carrying member of the Baby-Boomer and prime '60s generation -- I should keep a secret just to make myself younger? Are you kidding? I smile with glee and delirious happiness. And show off lots of well-earned wrinkles around the eyes!